Advancing trade and investment opportunities for Australia, and Australian businesses in Europe, has been a key priority of my first official visit to the Netherlands, Switzerland and Poland, pursuant to the Government’s focus on “economic diplomacy”.
Switzerland is our fifth largest investor and in Zurich I met with major Swiss and Australian companies that embody the strength of our business links with Europe.
Open markets, liberalised trade and increased foreign investment are major priorities for the Australian Government, and I met representatives of Swiss companies, including GlencoreXstrata, Novartis, Roche, Nestlé, Holcim, Zurich insurance and Credit Suisse, which contribute around $50 billion in investment in the Australian economy. These companies also support valuable research and development activities in Australia and our discussions focused on advancing commercial links with Switzerland.
In Neuchâtel, I met Swiss President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter under the framework of the Australia-Switzerland Strategic Dialogue, which we established when we met in Canberra last October. We discussed a range of current global issues and also cooperation between Australia and Switzerland on science and innovation, people-to-people links and economic issues.
In the Netherlands I had a number of successful bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the National Security Summit including with Netherlands Prime Minister Rutte and Foreign Trade Minister Ploumen. I also had key business meetings with leaders of industry based in The Hague and heads of government and foreign ministers attending the NSS 2014.
Poland is a nation that has seen rapid growth in recent years. In Warsaw I met with Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Deputy Defence Minister Robert Kupiecki. I also met with the Chair of the Economic Council, and former Prime Minister of Poland, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki to discuss increased bilateral trade and investment opportunities between Australia and Poland and Australia’s G20 priorities.
In the tradition of maintaining and developing our strong and longstanding people-to-people links with Poland, Mr Sikorski and I signed a new Work and Holiday visa arrangement between Australia and Poland that will allow university-educated Australians and Poles aged between 18 and 30 to work and holiday in each other’s country for up to 12 months.
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